The Student Governance and Development Unit at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) hosted the Vuna Leadership Academy Awards to honour student leaders at the Mansfield Hall in Ritson campus on Thursday, 09 November 2023.
The event was facilitated by Dr Mzwandile Khumalo, Siyaphumela Institutional lead and a DUT Teaching, Learning and Development Practitioner who began by welcoming the distinguished guests and members of the DUT Executive Management.
“As DUT we recognise the value that the students play in the realisation of ENVISION2030. DUT has assumed a really interesting posture of moving away from a concept of being a student-centred university to being a people-centred university, which in essence then says that every student has a role to play towards the realisation of ENVISION2030. Why is it then important for us to play our role, is that we really need to inculcate the agency for us to be influencers of the societies, for us to drive the change that we want to see but very importantly, we must improve lives and livelihoods,” said Dr Khumalo.
Delivering the welcome remarks was Mr Masiza Ngculu, Manager: Student Governance and Development at DUT. He acknowledged the presence of DUT Executive Management, Professor Keolebogile Motaung, Director: Technology, Transfer and Innovation, Dr Clement Moreku, Dean of Students and the keynote speaker, Dr Matheakuena Mohale, Director: Special Projects in the Office of the Vice-Chancellor and Principal.
Mr Ngculu indicated that he was so proud of how the various levels of leadership conducted themselves this year, 2023.
“If I look at the Student Representative Council (SRC), Student Parliament, DUT choir, members of Vuna Leadership Academy, the immense conversations that we had, we felt the need to take this short while to show our gratefulness for what has happened this year. You are the future of DUT, so out of you we expect to double, to triple, to recreate DUT,” said Mr Ngculu.
Sharing the same sentiments was Ms Thokozani Sibiya, Student Development Officer at DUT, who delivered the purpose of the event. She indicated that the recognition was specifically to say that the Student Governance and Development Unit has seen the students contributions and the awards will serve as a sign of their impact at DUT.
“The future will be followed by the footprints that you are leaving as you are traversing within your leadership journey. We just wanted to recognise you and to say thank you for trusting us with your minds, hearts, and souls. It’s been a journey and it continues to be a journey. We hope that you will go far in your leadership spheres,” shared Ms Sibiya.
The message of support was delivered by the Dean of Students, Dr Clement Moreku. He recognised the efforts of the student leaders, who he indicated have displayed selflessness and the agility that DUT needs to see in its graduates. He congratulated all the students who were going to obtain awards and encouraged other students to learn from them and always strive for excellence in all that they do.
Two students, Mr Lwazi Chiliza and Ms Shannon Pillay shared their reflections on being part of the Vuna Leadership Academy. Both students expressed how the Vuna Leadership Academy has assisted them to boost their confidence and how they have evolved to become great leaders. Ms Pillay extended her appreciation to Mr Andile Masuku, Student Development Officer whom she called her mentor and expressed how he has always guided and motivated her to do her best in all that she does.
The former SRC Secretary-General, Mr Joyful Gcabashe reflected his SRC journey during his term, 2022/23. Meanwhile, Ms Nompumelelo Ngcobo also reflected on her journey after being part of the Leadership Class of 2023.
Director of Special Projects in the Office of the Vice-Chancellor, Dr Matheakuena Mohale delivered the keynote address where he referred to leadership as integrity. He pointed out how it has become normal for people to create lies and they become known. He made reference to that many people at DUT have been questioning him about having an office at Umhlanga, which is a lie that had been circulating within DUT.
His address reflected on a bible story on Genesis 27 where Jacob took Essau’s blessing from his old and weak father, Isaac who could not see. Jacob had done this with the help of his mother Rebekah. He requested the guests to use this story to reflect to what kind of leader they want to become. He indicated that through these four characters, one should identify themselves and their leadership qualities. Dr Mohale encouraged the students to become leaders of integrity and to always strive to do well academically. He made reference to himself that when he was an SRC member, he graduated cum laude. He emphasised the importance of having smart leaders who will contribute meaningfully in the conversations that will improve the students lives.
Prof Keolebogile Motaung, Director: Technology, Transfer and Innovation at DUT, spoke briefly about the entrepreneurship projects at DUT. She indicated that the projects use design thinking as a tool where entrepreneurship does not solve a case study but real life problems. She encouraged students keen on becoming entrepreneurs to be part of the MIT 2024. Prof Motaung said through this project, students will learn how to communicate effectively, how to become decision makers and also how they can become risk takers.
“When we launched the MIT this year, we had 103 students whom all had a dream of becoming entrepreneurs. But only seven of them made it. Entrepreneurship is not for the faint-hearted, you need to be willing to put in the hard work,” said Prof Motaung.
Presenting the awards were Ms Thuli Duma, Executive Secretary: Office of Dean of Students who presented the Student Entrepreneurship Programme Awards. Mr Simphiwe Mahlaba from the Student Governance and Development Unit presented the SRC Awards to the former SRC 2022/23 and the Student Parliament. The Vuna Leadership Academy Awards were presented by Mr Andile Masuku and Mr Ntsikeklo Nhlenyama, Residence Development Officer.
DUT choir members, Simphiwe Mabika and Siphesihle Ncwane entertained the guests with their solo performances.
In closing, the Student Housing and Residence Life Manager in Midlands, Mrs Celiwe Chemane Nyathi thanked the distinguished guests for their presentations and for gracing the event. She thanked the students leaders for putting in an extra effort to ensure that they stand out from the rest. She encouraged them to continue living the DUT values and principles and to always fly the DUT flag high wherever they go.
Pictured: Some of the DUT Executive Management with the former SRC 2022/23 who were honoured at the awards ceremony.
Photographer: Khulasande Tshayile